On Tuesday night, Ian Kennedy threw a baseball at Zack Greinke during a game between the Arizona Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Dodgers. It hit him in the shoulder, and a brawl ensued.
It all began when Diamondbacks outfielder Cody Ross was hit by a pitch from Greinke earlier in the game, and then Kennedy responded by throwing at and hitting Yasiel Puig in the sixth inning. During the top of the seventh, Greinke drilled Miguel Montero in the back. The benches cleared at that point, but it was a typical “GRUNT, GRUNT. We make fire here” bit of nonsense as opposed to anything serious.
So, when Greinke came to bat in the bottom of the inning, a first pitch fastball up and in was shamefully not a surprise. Neither was the far more serious emptying of the dugouts that followed.
Kirk Gibson is an accomplished baseball player and baseball legend. He won the National League manager of the year in 2011. He won the World Series with the Tigers in 1984 and the Dodgers in 1988. That isn’t nothing. He’s been around winners, he knows what it looks like.
He is an accomplished baseball man. What he isn’t, not yet anyway, is a baseball general manager. Though, it appears, he plays one on TV!
Kirk Gibson is an old school guy. His old school ways worked wonders in 2011, leading his ragtag bunch of Desert Snakes to the playoffs. While the contributions of Justin Upton greatly contributed to this dream season, we can safely assume it takes a village to raise an underdog, but without a mayor that village will degrade into anarchy. (It’s an old Scottish mysticism.)
The 2012 Diamondbacks are kind of bad. Not entirely coincidentally, Justin Upton is kind of bad in 2012, too. He isn’t hitting for power and now trade rumours swirl around him. For the power to all but disappear from a 23-year old player is slightly concerning for most people, but Kirk Gibson? He isn’t worried. He knows Justin Upton can contribute in other ways, just like Alfredo Griffin used to do. Wait, what?
Heading into the 2012 season, the Diamondbacks are the default favorites to win the National League West. The defending division champs added a 3 WAR pitcher in Trevor Cahill and have full seasons of a resurgent Aaron Hill1 and entertaining Paul Goldschmidt ahead of them. Mostly, they play in the NL West where the bar is set pathetically low.
Despite coming into the season with everything going for them, the Snakes are not about to rest on their laurels. They are determined to wring every single advantage they can from their 25-man assemblage, maximizing their chances of making the playoffs.
Kirk Gibson is an old school guy. Hs gruff and no-nonsense ways might ruffle some feathers from time to time but, because his team won may more games in 2011 than most writers expected, Gibby was named the National League’s Manager of the Year.
The defending Manager of the Year, field boss of the NL West favorites, has a lot of clout with his team and with the media horde. Gibson sends forth more and more bizarre directives from his lofty petard, offering very little in the way of rationale when pressed on the issues. Why? HE’S THE MANAGER!
Awards for managers. What can you say? They certainly do get handed out, don’t they?
Arguing over the best manager in any given year is even more futile than the other awards that the Baseball Writers Association of America hand out at the end of the season. There’s an element of subjectivity in any opinion on what makes one player better than another, but at least those opinions can be backed up by statistics and reason.
Recognizing a manager’s contribution has no such metric on which to base an opinion on. Sure, you can say that the best team in baseball has the best manager because they collected the most wins, but you can also say that the sun and moon kill people because people around the world die every day both when the sun is out and when the moon is out.
It’s a funny correlation, but more often than not, it ends up that good managers have good players. And because baseball is a game in which getting out, or failing three fifths of the time is an extraordinary accomplishment, a manager’s sole responsibility is to put his players in the best position to succeed. And so, you could probably do worse than handing out the best manager awards to Kirk Gibson of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Joe Maddon of the Tampa Bay Rays for their efforts in 2011.